SAN JOSE (AP) — The river that runs through America’s 10th-largest city has dried up, shriveling a source of civic pride that had welcomed back trout, salmon, beavers and other wildlife after years of restoration efforts.
Over the past two months, large sections of the Guadalupe have become miles of cracked, arid gray riverbed and fish and other wildlife are either missing or dead, the San Jose Mercury News reported Sunday.
“I’m heartbroken,” said Leslee Hamilton, executive director of the Guadalupe River Park Conservancy, a nonprofit that runs educational and community programs along the river.
“We’ve been seeing a great increase in the number of birds and wildlife in the area,” she said. “The timing of this is just devastating.”
The Guadalupe River isn’t a big river or a storied river. But it has a long history in the area.
It was named in 1776 by Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza for the Virgin of Guadalupe as he camped along its banks en route from Monterey to San Francisco.
The river starts in the eastern foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains in smaller creeks. Those tributaries merge to become a river just south of Highway 85 in the Almaden area of San Jose. In normal years, it flows north through neighborhoods and downtown, then alongside Mineta San Jose International Airport before emptying into San Francisco Bay at Alviso.
Despite problems with homeless encampments, the river has become increasingly popular with bicyclists who use its growing trail network as well as community groups who have watched its fish and wildlife rebound.
State law requires dam operators in California to release water for fish but Santa Clara Valley Water District officials made the case that with low storage in the county’s 10 reservoirs — now 46 percent full — even if a lot of water was released down the Guadalupe River, most of it simply would soak into the bone-dry soil. And within a month the river would be dry again.
Because less water is being released from the reservoirs, at least eight miles of the 14-mile Guadalupe River are now completely dry.
The Guadalupe is in worse shape than many California waterways, but it is hardly alone.
The state’s rivers and creeks are withering and in some cases disappearing entirely after four years of historically dry weather.